Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Roman Road up Blackstone Edge, Littleborough Lancashire

In 1982 I was freelance writing for magazines and for a year or two around this time had a fairly regular series in Lancashire Magazine called John Burke's Curious Lancashire.

In each article I would focus on seven different curiosities - old village pumps, reminders of witchcraft, stocks in churchyards and so on. Anything that was a reminder of times gone by.

In April 1982 I parked the car up on the moors above Littleborough near Rochdale. I was born and raised in Rochdale and whilst it has been in Greater Manchester since 1974, it is still in Lancashire the geographical region as far as I'm concerned. I started to climb up the hill from the car. Even in 1982 when I was much younger and shaped somewhat like a racing snake I was soon out of breath before I had reached the curiosity I had come to see.

The gradient here is a hefty one in four - for every four feet horizontally, you climb one foot upwards. The Romans were renowned for taking the shortest route. They wouldn't spend time and money building roads round hills - they just went straight up them and over. And this is a Roman road. Getting on for 2000 years old. Better preserved the farther you climb - because once it became no more than a curiosity, people knackered themselves walking up, saw it and turned back I presume!

There's a good view looking down at any rate! In this photo we are looking straight down over Littleborough to Rochdale and beyond. On the left is local beauty spot, Hollingworth Lake. Where the road can be seen curving round on the right of the photo - that's where I had left the car...

It was impressive. As you get to the better preserved parts you see kerb stones at the edge of the road and a massive gutter in the centre. It may have been just a drainage channel - it does rain a bit at times in Lancashire... It has also been suggested that it could have been to take a brake. I found it tiring enough just walking up on my own. Animals pulling heavy carts or wagons would need a rest going up and would need something to take the weight of the cart or they would be pulled backwards. Carts coming down would need to be held back or the poor animals would be pushed down the hill and crushed by their own loads.

Anyway I was impressed enough to return at a later date with colour film in the camera. I've often thought about going back. But perhaps I'll just have another look at these photos... Ah yes... that will do nicely!

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